Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review – Apocalyptic Fantasy Redux

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is the updated and expanded re-release of Shin Megami Tensei V, the fifth instalment in the mainline Shin Megami Tensei franchise. The original game was generally well-received. However, it did get hit with some minor criticisms, especially regarding the human cast. Vengeance‘s new story mode tackles those areas of relative weakness and shows no mercy.

In this game, you choose whether to play the original story or the new Canon of Vengeance story. This mode brings in a new character whose very existences throws everything off-kilter. As in the base game–or Canon of Creation–an ordinary high school student stumbles into a desolate version of Tokyo crawling with demons. There, he is saved by Protofiend Aogami and the two fuse into a godlike entity known as the Nahobino. However, events in Canon of Vengeance take a sudden swerve when a girl called Yoko appears.

Yoko teams up with the player to fight demons and investigate the Netherworld they’re trapped in. As a trained exorcist, she has her own magic to throw around. However, her upbringing has left her with her own baggage about how being selfless invites others to abuse her.

As the player’s friend group begins to splinter, she’s unable to keep her mouth shut. Her presence drives the cast to develop in new and interesting ways, but her cynical influence may not change things for the better.

A Mythological Coming-Of-Age

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance begins where most games in the series do: with the end of the world. In this case, the world technically ended about 18 years ago, when Tokyo was destroyed and recreated. God is dead, Lucifer has sown the seeds of a wholly new future, and the player has become a deity known as the Nahobino in order to survive. And the path of the Nahobino has never been more treacherous.

The organization Bethel is determined to fight demons and protect Tokyo, but it is certainly hiding something. The player’s high school friends are being forged–and broken–under the pressure of supernatural war. And now a new faction of demons is slaughtering humans in service of its own goal. With danger on all sides, the Nahobino and Yoko must plunge headlong into a fight for their lives. The road to godhood will not be easy.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Glasya Labolas boss fight.

This is in many ways a far more human experience than the original release. The entire cast is far more fleshed out and their increasing desperation as the world falls apart around them hits hard. And while the demons are charming, the humans finally take center stage in Canon of Vengeance’s tragic coming-of-age.

Yoko’s subdued design and brusque attitude make her a welcome addition to the game’s human cast. In a lot of ways, she feels more realistic than the other female characters. This extends to her inner darkness and disillusionment with society.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is Merciless

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance takes a lot of inspiration from previous titles, especially Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. However, the addition of Yoko feels like something new brought in just for this game. The franchise is no stranger to themes of corruption and frustration with the status quo. And yet Yoko’s position as a ‘saint’ who’s become disgusted with the way people try to take advantage of her is a refreshing one.

Her cynicism clashes with nearly every other character, upsetting the existing dynamics and storyline. Whether the player chooses to agree with her grim perspective or deny it, the result is a tense and fascinating dynamic. Yuzuru, Tao, and Dazai also feel more messy and complicated this time around as their flaws come to the forefront. The game’s atmosphere has never been thicker or more tragic.

Yoko Hirumine from Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance talking about the cycle of abuse.

The game features a delightfully eerie soundscape. And the voice acting is still solid, especially for the demons. The lovingly-detailed apocalyptic environment offers some truly spectacular views. Roaming through the desert, the ruins of Tokyo, and more exotic fantasy locales feels great. There’s a whole new ward of Da’at to explore with its own visual style, too. And Magatsu Rails make backtracking much easier.

The biggest downside is that using too many rails to backtrack across half the map made me seasick. Also, some dungeons are still a pain to navigate.

So Many Demons, So Little Time

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance features turn-based combat and a complex system of elemental strengths and weaknesses. Hammering on a foe’s weaknesses will grant extra turns. But if you hit an enemy with an attack it’s strong against, you lose turns. Classic Shin Megami Tensei stuff.  Every battle feels difficult and things can turn on a dime. One bad turn can be devastating, especially when taking on multiple waves of enemies.

The Qadistu from Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance.

Beyond that, Vengeance adds lots of quality-of-life improvements to the base gameplay. You can now have human characters join your party and fight by your side… for a time. Demon Haunts are a fantastic addition to the game. I love the Shin Megami Tensei demons and any excuse to chat with them and give them gifts is a good one.

You can chain battles together in difficult Consecutive Encounters and earn greater rewards. Demon fusion is as delightfully complicated as ever. It’s easy to spend hours assembling your team and filling out your compendium. And Vengeance offers two distinct game modes, Canon of Creation and Canon of Vengeance, with very different storylines. You can also replay previous battles in boss rush and challenge modes. And there’s a ton of grinding required, as always.

The human main cast of Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance gathered together, talking about how broken the world is.

All in all, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is an excellent revision of a game I already liked. It’s still more sci-fi than horror, but a delightfully cynical tale nonetheless. And Yoko is a very engaging heroine in all her bitter glory. If you liked the original Shin Megami Tensei V, or even just thought about playing it, check Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance out. You won’t regret it.

***PC code provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Thick atmosphere
  • Interesting characters
  • New story campaign
  • Intense turn-based combat
  • Quality of life improvements

The Bad

  • Magatsu Rails made me ill
  • Not as scary as previous games
  • Lots of grinding
  • Still easy to get lost sometimes